Travel Comment

Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Those magic travel moments

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Travel is a magical affair. Sure, there can be moments of boredom and unease along the way. But the overiding feeling when you're travelling is - or should be - one of wonder.

There's wonder at actually being at places you've read about for years, like Buckingham Palace, the Taj Mahal or the Pyramids; at the beauty of watching the sun rise over Everest, the mist swirl across Dusky Sound or seeing a cheetah walk out of the African brush; at the glorious taste of a meal at one of the great Paris restaurants, sipping a glass of Penfolds Grange in the Barossa or savouring a dram of Bowmore on the Isle of Islay; at meeting tireless Sherpas high in the Himalaya, cheery youngsters amid the poverty of Harare, or hospitable nomads in the wilds of Mongolia.

I can still remember the wonder of my first overseas trip, going to Sydney as a 15-year-old to attend a Scout Jamboree, and I'm sure I'll feel the same sort of excitement when I take off for my next, probably to Hawaii. When the excitement fades I reckon it'll be time to stop travelling.

But amid the general joy of travelling there are, from time to time, those really special occasions that stand out, the experiences you recall again and again, never failing to rekindle the original delight.

It's to give us a chance to share some of those magical travel moments that Singapore Airlines and Silk Air have joined forces with Herald Travel and Herald Online to arrange a very exciting competition.

We want you to write down your most delightful travel memory and send it in ... and you may win the opportunity to enjoy some more magical experiences.

To give you an idea of the sort of thing we're looking for, one of my personal magic moments occurred on a trip to Antarctica (and, by the way, I've stuck strictly to the 150 word limit in describing this): The Antarctic was in a rare good mood, with sunny skies, calm waters and friendly locals, as we climbed out of our zodiac and splashed over the pebbles and lumps of ice to set foot on the frozen tip of the Antarctic Peninsula for the first time. Thousands of gentoo penguins in their natty black and white dinner jackets stood incuriously to attention, like a bored guard of honour; their chicks set up an enthusiastic yowling, doubtless hoping for food; and a few seals bared their teeth, but their hearts obviously weren't in it. When I sat on a boulder to survey the scene, one particularly adventurous chick sidled up, gave my gumboots a hopeful peck, then extended his flippers and performed a strange little dance of greeting. It was an extraordinarily warm welcome to one of the coldest, loneliest, harshest and most beautiful places on earth.

Singapore Airlines' North Island sales manager Richard Baker had his magic moment on a camping safari in Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana: Each night we'd set up our tents in a new spot, make camp and sit on logs around the fire after sunset, chatting over the night sounds of the bush. On this particular evening our guide suddenly shushed us, shining his powerful torch about 50m away. Three lions walked silently by, their eyes glowing in the torch light. The lion and his two lionesses stalked off, intent on the night's hunting. Our guide advised us to stay close to the fire or in our tents that night - no toilet breaks - and he'd be sleeping in the truck. It was thrilling and sobering to listen to that lion roaring his claim to his territory ... which we were in. The next morning we looked at the paw prints the size of small dinner plates around our camp.

That's a memory to stir the blood. And hopefully the incentive of a $10,000 trip for four to some of the most fascinating parts of Asia will stir a few memories of other magical moments.

- Jim Eagles

Pictured above: A curious gentoo penguin played a part in a particularly memorable trip to Antarctica for Jim Eagles.

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